Kyrie Irving apologizes to US teachers for spreading flat-earth conspiracy theories

The Earth is round.
The Earth is round.
Image: Greg M. Cooper / USA Today Sports
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Kyrie Irving doesn’t believe the Earth is flat…anymore.

The NBA star has been at the center of a controversy ever since he claimed in a podcast last year that the Earth was not round. As recently as June, he said that the question was still worth debating. But yesterday (Oct. 1), at Forbes’ Under 30 Summit in Boston, the Celtics point guard apologized for spreading the theory, saying he didn’t realize how much his words would influence people.

In an on-stage exchange with Kurt Badenhausen, a senior editor at Forbes, Irving said he regretted spreading that particular conspiracy theory—though he stopped short of actually stating that he believed the Earth was round. Instead, he said, “even if you believe in that [flat-earth theories], just don’t come out and say that stuff. That’s for intimate conversations.”

Irving says he was partially influenced by “the rabbit hole” of YouTube conspiracy videos. That makes him a part of a growing movement of mostly online conspiracy theorists who believe, among other things, that the Earth is flat, and that the US government is lying to everyone about it. The movement is growing in popularity—last November, more than 500 people attended the first-ever Flat Earth Conference in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. The New Yorker’s Alan Burdick profiled this conference in May 2018, writing that these kind of conspiracy theories have thrived in the post-truth era of Donald Trump.

On stage, Irving said he wished to particularly apologize to science teachers across the US, some of whom, he says, have approached him to say they had to double down on their curriculum, presumably to convince their students that the Earth really was round.

In questioning scientifically proven theories, Irving is making teachers’ jobs more difficult. A 2017 NPR investigation revealed that US teachers feel they are losing the battle against the “fake news” that students find online. One teacher, Nick Gurol, told NPR that his middle-school students believe the Earth is flat because Irving said so. He asked, “How have I failed these kids so badly they think the Earth is flat just because a basketball player says it?”